Wilmington & the Lower Cape Fear

  • Historic Wilmington | Wrightsville & Carolina Beaches | Southport | The NC Maritime Museum


November 9 – 12, 2022


  • Scenic drives along the Low Country’s “Blackwater Rivers"
  • Discover Wilmington's rich history by horse-drawn trolley!
  • Wrightsville & Carolina Beaches, and the quaint town of Southport
  • Fort Fisher – Confederate bastion that guarded passage into the Cape Fear River channel
  • Historic houses, churches, and a railroad depot-turned-museum - and great stories on location!

Trip Description

It’s a Classic Carolina Road Trip . . . to the riverside city of Wilmington!

Join us as we explore the under-the-radar charms of this architecture-rich city – also known for its culinary appeal, youthful vibrance, and the Old North Carolina vibe of its “satellite” seaside towns:  Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and Southport.  We’ll join up with local experts to examine beautifully preserved homes and houses of worship, and to hear defining stories – some rooted in Wilmington’s history; others rooted in the productions of Screen Gems Studios (for all you TV and movie buffs)!  And we’ll take that iconic drive, from downtown, past the beaches to Fort Fisher, by ferry to Southport, and back to Wilmington.  Late fall is the perfect time to explore . . . and we’ll provide ample time for leisurely strolls on the Riverwalk that passes our hotel lobby.


Day 1

All aboard!  We’ll depart the western Carolinas for our drive to Wilmington.  Enjoy a slice of the backroads as we pass through classic (and historic) rolling Piedmont to Camden, SC, where we’ll enjoy lunch.  We’ll continue east, crossing the Low Country’s “blackwater rivers” as we progress:  Lynches River, the Great Pee Dee, the Little Pee / Lumber, and the Waccamaw.  All to arrive on the Cape Fear River and the riverside city of Wilmington!

Relax, unwind, and check out our digs for the next three nights:  we’re right next to the water in the Hotel Ballast (a Hilton property).

This evening we’ll enjoy a delicious dinner – a “welcome” to Wilmington and its lovely satellite communities.

Day 2

This morning, we’ll explore Wilmington’s historic heart.  For starters, we’ll visit two lovely ecclesiastical works of art – that happen to be next-door neighbors:  the Moorish-inspired Temple of Israel synagogue; and the St. James Episcopal Church.  Each has a fascinating story

In the late-morning, let’s discover downtown’s grid of early commercial streets and fine residential districts at the “right pace”:  in a horse-drawn trolley.  We’ll thank our Percheron (and human side-kick) . . . then drive to Wrightsville Beach.

Lunch at Wrightsville . . . and an enjoyable look around this beachside satellite city.

When we return to Wilmington, we’ll enjoy a guided visit of the historic Latimer House, followed by down time to rest, relax, or have a look around on your own.

Dinner and overnight, historic Wilmington.

Day 3

After breakfast, we’ll embark on a one-of-a-kind “loop drive.”  We’ll first drive to Wrightsville and Carolina Beaches – sporting their classic Old Carolina family beach vibe.  Ferris wheel . . . boardwalks . . . and retro architecture.  Nearby, we’ll find Fort Fisher – Confederate bastion that guarded passage into the Cape Fear River channel.  From Fort Fisher, we’ll take the car ferry to quaint Southport.  Enjoy a driving tour of the fine “pilots’ houses” in the tree-rich neighborhoods that stack up behind Bay Street.  Lunch in Southport.

After lunch, enjoy down time to have a look around; or join Chumley to look into the North Carolina Maritime Museum, in the middle of the village.  Discover the myriad ways this region has been shaped by the water – in a museum that stands at the confluence of a river, an ocean, and an estuary: The Cape Fear River, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Intracoastal Waterway, and the Atlantic Ocean.

We’ll then complete our “loop” back to Wilmington for late-afternoon rest and relaxation.

Dinner and overnight, Wilmington.

Day 4

We’ll enjoy breakfast in our hotel; then pack our bags for our return home.  We’ll make an interesting stop at Lake Waccamaw – one of the largest Carolina Bay Lakes of them all, and an early “day out” retreat from Wilmington.  Access to the lake resort was by the Atlantic Coast Line Railway.  The restored depot is now the Lake Waccamaw Depot Museum (which we’ll visit).

We’ll continue our drive into South Carolina, stopping for a down home lunch; and arriving back at our start points by the early evening.


What's Included

  • Comfortable transportation
  • Accommodation for 3 nights
  • Breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 2 dinners
  • All activities / admissions per the itinerary
  • Guide and concierge service throughout the trip

Trip Price

$2,410 per person (double occupancy; single supplement, $370)

What's Not Included

Price does not include alcohol, other meals, or optional trip insurance.

..well-planned, from interesting and fun excursions planned each day, to comfortable lodging and transportation. Our trip leaders, Chumley and Khal, were impressive with their knowledge of each area we explored and gracious in their planning of every aspect of our trips.

Trip insurance safeguards your travel investment, your belongings, and most importantly, you. Though trip insurance is optional, we strongly encourage travelers to purchase trip insurance in the event you have to cancel or leave a trip for any reason. Please note, all trip participants should wait for confirmation from Explore Up Close that the trip has the minimum sign-up required to be a “go” before purchasing travel insurance. Please confirm with Explore Up Close before making any additional travel arrangements.

Once you have received confirmation from Explore Up Close, we recommend contacting a travel insurance provider directly to request a quote and compare pricing and features. You can find other providers that may fit your needs at www.insuremytrip.com, or we can gladly connect you with our travel agent.

This trip departs from Greenville / Spartanburg, South Carolina and Asheville, North Carolina. If you live elsewhere, please contact us to discuss travel arrangements, and we will look forward to assisting you!

Book Trip